Do you have a networking event on the horizon?
I’m a serial networker.
I love the chance to meet people who I can learn from and who can show me a new way to approach one of the (many) challenges I face in my role as a marketer.
It comes down to appreciating everyone else’s value while understanding your own.
Here’s what I mean.
Real networking success happens when the people meeting understand that everyone has equal value. And everyone has the potential to help push each other higher and further.
While many people enter a networking event with the mindset of ‘How can I benefit today?’ this is approaching the event entirely backwards.
What you should be asking is “How can I help others today?’
In the simplest terms, networking is about:
- people connecting with others
- communicating their passions
- enjoying others who share those passions
Networking is about listening to others, figuring out what they need, and connecting them with people you believe can help them. And all that should happen without you seeking to gain from it.
That means you should be just as open to making connections between other parties – even if you’re not involved in the final relationship yourself.
Successful networkers work on building positive relations and generally give more than they receive.
Remember, instead of asking, “What’s in it for me?”, start thinking, “How can I help?”
So, if you’re ready to become a successful networker, start by following these 5 proven networking tips.
#1 – Network early and often
Don’t treat networking as a last resort when you need help.
Experienced networkers can tell when a person has self-serving motives. This means leaving your stack of CVs at home. You don’t want to ruin your chances of a mutually beneficial relationship before you even get started.
While it may sound counter-intuitive, networking without ulterior motives will allow you to build relations and a reputation for being generous instead of self-serving.
And that’s the foundation you’ll build your networking worth on.
#2 – Understand your value
Everyone at your event has value. But you’ll need to be clear on what value YOU bring to the table too.
Before attending any networking event, be clear on what you bring to the table. You might choose to focus on aspects like your:
- Skill sets
Think about what you want to discuss, especially how you can help others. Then approach each interaction with the goal of using your skills to benefit someone else.
Good things come to those who know their worth and actively promote it to benefit others.
#3 – Put agendas aside
Business decisions and socially conscious choices don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In the same way, your networking efforts should reflect positive choices.
As a networker, it’s your job to build people up. Ask questions and listen to what people have to say with genuine interest.
Don’t make the mistake of disregarding people based on their titles or experience. A person might be in a junior position; but that doesn’t mean they don’t have knowledge or valuable connections that could benefit you.
Once each conversation ends, remember what each person brings to the table as you proceed to the next.
Acknowledge that you’re networking to benefit yourself or your business. But don’t make this the primary focus.
Networking to increase your chances of landing a job will end up doing the opposite in the long-run. Think of it this way, would you enjoy spending all evening talking to someone who only talked about themselves?
So, it stands to reason that other people don’t want to hear endless self-promotion from you. Instead, just be open, honest, and friendly. Do your best to create connections between people that are mutually beneficial. Try and learn something by the end of the night.
In the wise words of Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said and what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”
If there is one attractive quality that networkers will remember about you, it’s generosity. Make people feel heard, valued and cared for, and they’ll think about you too.
#4 – Find a way to be useful
By now you’ll have mastered the art of striking up a conversation with honest intentions.
Before your conversation comes to an end, ask how you can be of help.
Despite the importance of this question, it is too seldom asked. You may even get a look of surprise because of it! However, this is typically replaced by a smile of appreciation.
As someone who networks regularly at various ‘Meet Up’ events across Sydney on behalf of Search It Local, I’m constantly trying to find a way to apply my skills to solve someone else’s problem.
While your new contact might not have an answer to your question right there and then, they might have an idea later. For this reason, leave the conversation with an open loop. Saying something like, “if you need anything, connect with me via LinkedIn or give me a call” can create a psychological trigger in their mind.
The next time they face a problem that you said you could help solve, you’ll be the natural first point of contact in their mind.
So make sure you give them your business card!
#5 – Follow up (then follow through)
When you promise someone that you’ll get in touch, make sure you do!
Then when you do touch base, reaffirm your desire to help out. And if you promised someone else that you’d make a connection, make sure you follow through!
Everyone’s busy with events, commitments, families, and jobs. But it takes less than a minute to send an email introducing two people.
Once you’ve done that, leave them to it – just be the bridge connecting the two. Small actions like these can mean the world to other people. One introduction might change another person’s professional life.
You just never know!
Do you have any networking tips you rely on? Let us know in the comments!